« PreviousContinue »
Beauty like a shadow flies,
Phyllis ! to this truth we owe
Nor all appear, among those few, Worthy the stock from whence they grew : The sap, which at the root is bred, In trees, through all the boughs is spread : But virtues, which in parent shine, Make not like progress through the line. 'Tis not from whom, but where, we live : The place does oft those graces give. Great Julius, on the mountains bred, A flock perhaps, or herd, had led; He,* that the world subdued, had been But the best wrestler on the green. 'Tis art, and knowledge, which draw forth The hidden seeds of native worth: They blow those sparks, and make them rise Into such flames as touch the skies. To the old heroes hence was given A pedigree, which reach'd to heaven: Of mortal seed they were not held, Which other mortals so excell'd. And beauty too, in such excess As yours, Zelinda! claims no less. Smile but on me, and you shall scorn, Henceforth, to be of princes born. I can describe the shady grove, Where your lov'd mother slept with Jove, And yet excuse the faultless dame, Caught with her spouse's shape and name : Thy matchless form will credit bring To all the wonders I shall sing.
ON A GIRDLE. THAT, which her slender waist confin'd, Shall now my joyful temples bind : No monarch but would give his crown, His arms might do what this has done.
It was my Heaven's extremest sphere, The pale which held that lovely deer: My joy, my grief, my hope, my love, Did all within this circle move!
John Dryden was born, probably in 1631, in post of poet-laureate, to which was added the sinethe parish of Aldwincle-Allsaints, in Northampton- cure place of historiographer royal; the joint salashire. His father possessed a small estate, acted ries of which amounted to 2001. as a justice of the peace during the usurpation, and The tragedies composed by Dryden were written seems to have been a Presbyterian. John, at a in his earlier periods, in rhyme, which circumstance proper age, was sent to Westminster school, of which probably contributed to the poetical rant by which Busby was then master; and was thence elected they were too much characterized. For the corto a scholarship in Trinity college, Cambridge. rection of this fault, Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, He took his degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts in conjunction with other wits, wrote the celebrated in the university; but though he had written two burlesque drama, entitled “The Rehearsal,” of short copies of verses about the time of his admis- which Dryden, under the name of Bayes, was made sion, his name does not occur among the academi- the hero; and, in order to point the ridicule, his cal poets of this period. By his father's death, in dress, phraseology, and mode of recitation, were 1654, he succeeded to the estate, and, removing to exactly imitated by the actor. It does not, however, the metropolis, he made his entrance into public appear that his solid reputation as a poet was injured life, under the auspices of his kinsman, Sir Gilbert by this attack. He had the candor to acknowledge Pickering, one of Cromwell's council and house that several of the strokes were just, and he wisely of lords, and staunch to the principles then predom-refrained from making any direct reply. inant. On the death of Cromwell, Dryden wrote In 1681, and, as it is asserted, at the king's ersome “Heroic Stanzas," strongly marked by the press desire, he wrote his famous political poem, loftiness of expression and variety of imagery which entitled “Absalom and Achitophel ;" in which the characterized his more mature efforts. They were, incidents in the life of David were adapted to however, criticised with some severity.
those of Charles II. in relation to the Duke of At the Restoration, Dryden lost no time in oblit- Monmouth and the Earl of Shaftesbury. Its poetry erating former stains; and, as far as it was possible, and its severity caused it to be read with great rendered himself peculiarly distinguished for the eagerness; and as it raised the author to high favor base servility of his strains. He greeted the king's with the court party, so it involved him in irreconreturn by a poem, entitled “Astræa Redux," which cilable enmity with its opponents. These feelings was followed by “A Panegyric on the Corona- were rendered more acute by his “Medal, a Satire tion:” nor did Lord Chancellor Clarendon escape on Sedition," written in the same year, on occasion his encomiastic lines. His marriage with Lady of a medal struck by the whigs, when a grand Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Earl of Berk- jury returned Ignoramus to an indictment preferred shire, is supposed to have taken place in 1665. against Lord Shaftesbury, for high treason. The About this time he first appears as a writer for the rancor of this piece is not easily to be paralleled stage, in which quality he composed several pieces; among party poems. In 1682 he published “Macand though he did not display himself as a prime Flecknoe,” a short piece, throwing ridicule upon favorite of the dramatic muse, his facility of har- his very unequal rival, Shadwell. In the same monious versification, and his splendor of poetic year, one of his most serious poems, the “Religio diction, gained him admirers. In 1667 he publish. Laici," made its appearance. Its purpose was ed a singular poem, entitled “Annus Mirabilis,” to give a compendious view of the arguments for the subjects of which were, the naval war with revealed religion, and to ascertain in what the authe Dutch, and the fire of London. It was written thority of revelation essentially consists. in four-line stanzas, a form which has since gone Soon after this time, he ceased to write for the into disuse in heroic subjects; but the piece stage. His dramatic vein was probably exhausted, abounded in images of genuine poetry, though in- and his circumstances were distressed. To this petermixed with many extravagances.
riod Mr. Malone refers a letter written by him to At this period of his life, Dryden became pro- Hyde, Earl of Rochester, in which, with modest fessionally a writer for the stage, having entered dignity, he pleads merit enough not to deserve to into a contract with the patentees of the King's starve, and requests some small employment in the Theatre, to supply them with three plays in a year, customs or excise, or, at least, the payment of half upon the condition of being allowed the profit of a year's pension for the supply of his present necesone share and a quarter out of twelve shares and sities. He never obtained any of the requested three quarters, into which the theatrical stock was places, and was doomed to find the booksellers his divided. Of the plays written upon the above con- best patrons. tract, a small proportion have kept their place Charles II. died in 1685, and was succeeded by on the stage, or in the closet. On the death of his brother James II., who openly declared his at Sir W. Davenant, in 1668, Dryden obtained the tachment to the religion of Rome. It was not long before Dryden conformed to the same religion. to be told, that the ten concluding years of his life, This step has been the cause of much obloquy on in which he wrote for bread, and composed at a cer. one side, and has found much excuse on the other; tain rate per line, were those of many of the pieces but if it be considered, from a view of his past life, which have most contributed to immortalize his that, in changing his religious profession, he could name. They were those of his translation of Juve. have had little difficulty to encounter, it will appear nal and Persius; of that of Virgil entire, a work no breach of candor to suppose that his immediate which enriches the English language, and has motive was nothing more than personal interest. greatly promoted the author's fame; of his cele. The reward he obtained for his compliance was an brated Alexander's Feast; and of his Fables, conaddition to his pension of 100l. per annum. Some taining some of the richest and most truly poetical time after he was engaged in a work which was the pieces which he ever composed. Of these, several longest single piece he ever composed. This was will appear in the subsequent collection of his works. his elaborate controversial poem of “The Hind Nor ought his prose writings to be neglected, and Panther." When completed, notwithstanding which, chiefly consisting of the critical essays preits unpromising subject, and signal absurdity of fixed to his poems, are performances of extraordiplan, such was the power of Dryden's verse, that it nary vigor and comprehension of mind, and afford, was read with avidity, and bore every mark of oc- perhaps, the best specimens of genuine English. cupying the public attention. The birth of a Dryden died of a spreading inflammation in one prince called forth a congratulatory poem from Dry- of his toes, on the first of May, 1700, and was den, entitled “Britannia Rediviva,” in which he buried in Westminster Abbey, next to the tomb of ventured to use a poet's privilege of prophecy, fore- Chaucer. No monument marked his grave, till a telling a commencing era of prosperity to the nation plain one, with his bust, was erected, at the expense and the church from this auspicious event; but in of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. He left behind vain! for the revolution took place within a few him three sons, all brought up to letters. His months, and the hopes of the party were blasted for own character was cold and reserved, backward in
personal advances to the great, and rather heavy in Dryden was a severe sufferer from the change : conversation. In fact, he was too much engaged his posts and pensions were taken away, and the in literature to devote much of his time to society. poetical laurel was conferred upon his insignificant Few writers of his time delighted so much to aprival, Shadwell. He was now, in advanced life, to proach the verge of profaneness; whence it may depend upon his own exertions for a security from be inferred, that though religion was an interesting absolute indigence. His faculties were equal to topic of discussion to him, he had very little of its the emergency; and it will surprise some theorists spirit in his heart.
What peace can be, where both to one pretend ?
(But they more diligent, and we more strong) Or if a peace, it soon must have an end;
For they would grow too powerful were it long
THE YEAR OF WONDERS, 1666.
Is thriving arts long time had Holland grown, Behold two nations, then, engag'd so far,
Crouching at home and cruel when abroad : That each seven years the fit must shake each land Searce leaving us the means to claim our own; Where France will side to weaken us by war,
Our king they courted, and our merchants aw'd. Who only can his vast designs withstand.
Trade, which like blood should circularly flow, See how he feeds th' Iberian with delays,
Stopp'd in their channels, found its freedom lost: To render us his timely friendship vain : Thither the wealth of all the world did go, And while his secret soul on Flanders preys,
And seem'd but shipwreck'd on so base a coast. He rocks the cradle of the babe of Spain.
For them alone the Heavens had kindly heat;
In eastern quarries ripening precious dew: For them the Idumaan balm did sweat,
And in hot Ceilon spicy forests grew.
Such deep designs of empire does he lay
O'er them, whose cause he seems to take in hand And prudently would make them lords at sea,
To whom with ease he can give laws by land.
The Sun but seem'd the laborer of the year; This saw our king; and long within his breast
Each waring Moon supplied her watery store, His pensive counsels balanc'd to and fro: To swell those tides which from the line did bear He griev'd the land he freed should be oppress'd,
Their brim-full vessels to the Belgian shore. And he less for it than usurpers do.
Thus, mighty in her ships, stood Carthage long, His generous mind the fair ideas drew
And swept the riches of the world from far; Of fame and honor, which in dangers lay ; Yet stoop'd to Rome, less wealthy, but more strong: Where wealth, like fruit on precipices, grew, And this may prove our second Punic war. Not to be gather'd but by birds of prey.
The loss and gain each fatally were great;
And still his subjects call'd aloud for war: But peaceful kings, o'er martial people set,
Each other's poise and counterbalance are.
By the rich scent we found our perfum'd prey,
Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie And round about their murdering cannon lay,
At once to threaten and invite the eye.
He first survey'd the charge with careful eyes, Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard
Which none but mighty monarchs could maintain; The English undertake th' unequal war: Yet judg'd, like vapors that from limbecs rise, Seven ships alone, which the port is barr'd,
It would in richer showers descend again. Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare.
Or one, that bright companion of the Sun, Go, mortals, now, and vex yourselves in vain
Whose glorious aspect seal’d our new-born king; For wealth, which so uncertainly must come : And now, a round of greater years begun, When what was brought so far, and with such pain
New influence from his walks of light did bring. Was only kept to lose it nearer home.
Victorious York did first with fam'd success, The son, who twice three months on th' ocean tost,
To his known valor make the Dutch give place : Prepar'd to tell what he had pass'd before, Thus Heaven our monarch's fortune did confess, Now sees in English ships the Holland coast, Beginning conquest from his royal race.
And parents’arms, in vain, stretch'd from the shore.
But since it was decreed, auspicious king, This careful husband had been long away,
In Britain's right that thou shouldst wed the main, Whom his chaste wife and little children mourn. Heaven, as a gage, would cast some precious thing, Who on their fingers learn'd to tell the day
And therefore doom'd that Lawson should be slain. On which their father promis'd to return.
Lawson amongst the foremost met his fate,
Whom sea-green Sirens from the rocks lament: Thus as an offering for the Grecian state,
He first was kill'd who first to battle went.
Such are the proud designs of human-kind,
And so we suffer shipwreck everywhere!
Who in the night of Fate must blindly steer!
Their chief blown up in air, not waves, expir'd, The undistinguish'd seeds of good and ill,
To which his pride presum'd to give the law : Heaven in his bosom from our knowledge hides The Dutch confess'd Heaven present, and retir'd, And draws them in contempt of human skill,
And all was Britain's the wide ocean saw. Which oft for friends mistaken foes provides.
To nearest ports their shatter'd ships repair,
Where by our dreadful cannon they lay aw'd: So reverently men quit the open air,
When thunder speaks the angry gods abroad.
Let Munster's prelate ever be accurst,
In whom we seek the German faith in vain : Alas, that he should teach the English first,
That fraud and avarice in the church could reign
And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught Happy, who never trust a stranger's will,
Whose friendship’s in his interest understood !
When power is too remote to make him good.
Like hunted castors, conscious of their store, [bring: Till now, alone the mighty nations strove;
· Their waylaid wealth to Norway's coasts they The rest, at gaze, without the lists did stand ; There first the North's cold bosom spices bore, And threatening France, plac'd like a painted Jove,
And Winter brooded on the eastern Spring. Kept idle thunder in his lifted hand.
That eunuch guardian of rich Holland's trade,
Who envies us what he wants power t'enjoy ; Whuse noiseful valor does no foe invade,
And weak assistance will his friends destroy.
Our fleet divides, and straight the Dụich appear,
In number, and a fam'd commander, bold: The narrow seas can scarce their navy bear,
Or crowded vessels can their soldiers hold.
Offended that we fought without his leave, The duke, less numerons, but in courage more,
He takes this time his secret hate to show: On wings of all the winds to combat fies : Which Charles does with a mind so calm receive, His murdering guns a loud defiance roar,
As one that neither seeks nor shuns his foe. And bloody crosses on his flag-staffs rise.
With France, to aid the Dutch, the Danes unite :
France as their tyrant, Denmark as their slave. But when with one three nations join to fight,
They silently confess that one more brave.
Both furl their sails, and strip them for the fight;
Their folded sheets dismiss the useless air: Th’ Elean plains could boast no nobler sight,
When struggling champions did their bodies bare.
Lewis had chas'd the English from his shore ;
But Charles the French as subjects does invite : Would Heaven for each some Solomon restore,
Who, by their mercy, may decide their right!
Borne each by other in a distant line,
The sea-built forts in dreadful order move : So vast the noise, as if not fleets did join,
But lands unfix'd, and floating nations strove.
Were subjects so but only by their choice, Now pass’d, ori either side they nimbly tack;
And not from birth did forc'd dominion take, Both strive to intercept and guide the wind : Our prince alone would have the public voice; And, in its eye, more closely they come back,
And all his neighbors' realms would deserts make. To finish all the deaths they left behind.
He without fear a dangerous war pursues,
Which without rashness he began before: As honor made him first the danger choose,
So still he makes it good on virtue's score.
On high-rais'd decks the haughty Belgians ride,
Beneath whose shade our humble frigates go. Such port the elephant bears, and so defied
By the rhinoceros her unequal foe.
The doubled charge his subjects' love supplies,
Who in that bounty to themselves are kind : So glad Egyptians see their Nilus rise,
And in his plenty their abundance find.
And as the built, so different is the fight:
Their mounting shot is on our sails design'd; Deep in their hulls our deadly bullets light,
And through the yielding planks a passage find
With equal power he does two chiefs create, Our dreaded admiral from far they threat,
Two such as each seem'd worthiest when alone; Whose batter'd rigging their whole war receives Each able to sustain a nation's fate,
All bare, like some old oak which tempests beat, Since both had found a greater in their own. He stands, and sees below his scatter'd leaves.
Both great in courage, conduct, and in fame,
Yet neither envious of the other's praise ; Their duty, faith, and interest too the same,
Like mighty partners equally they raise.
Heroes of old, when wounded, shelter sought;
But he who meets all danger with disdain, Ev'n in their face his ship to anchor brought,
And steeple-high stood propt upon the main.
The prince long time had courted Fortune's love, At this excess of courage, all amaz’d,
The foremost of his foes awhile withdraw : Thus with their Amazons the heroes strove, With such respect in enter'd Rome they gaz'd,
And conquer d first those beauties they would gain. Who on high chairs the godlike fathers saw. The duke beheld, like Scipio, with disdain, And now, as where Patroclus' body lay,
That Carthage, which he ruin'd, rise once more ; Here Trojan chiefs advanc'd, and there the Greek And shook aloft the fasces of the main,
Ours o'er the duke their pious wings display, To fright those slaves with what they felt before. And theirs the noblest spoils of Britain seek.